Roby Harris

Roby Harris III
President, CFI

Most carpet cleaners start off with portables, because of the low cost to start a business. Portables are less costly to purchase than a truck mounted unit; a start up service will pay $60,000 to $80,000 for a new van and truck mount. While a portable will cost $1,500.00 to $5,000.00 depending on the type of portable. Cleaners often purchase lower end portables to get started in business and once they get established, they move up to a truck mounted unit or the higher end portable. One other good thing about portable units is you can pay cash and keep your operating cost at a minimum, with low to no overhead.
CFI Member Mark Goodman of Fibermark The Carpet Bagger of Santa Monica, California exclusively uses portables in his business. Mark cleans mostly high end apartments and condominiums that are hard to reach and would be almost impossible to access with truck mounted units. In some areas of the country, people live literally on top of each other in luxury high-rise buildings. To use a truck mounted unit with long hose runs up stair wells and hoses hanging over balconies, out of windows two and three story’s up is a lawsuit waiting. Portables are necessary for high-rise towers over 15 to 20 stories and the hard to reach buildings.
In some situations security can be a problem, banks and businesses with security issues are less of a concern when using a portable extractor. Matt Cole of Coles Carpet Care of Castro Valley, California works in cleaning situations where security is a must. You have to enter in and shut the door behind you and you’re locked in the building until the job is done. In one of his accounts he uses a large walk behind. The portable unit is completely self contained with motorized wheels, vacuum, heat and 100 psi so carpets are cleaned, rinsed and dry within hours.
Charlene Locke of Sequoia Carpet, Rug & Upholstery Cleaners in Palo Alto, California. Charlene’s guys use portables every day in the shop and out in the field cleaning some of the most delicate fabric and fibers. Charlene’s rug plant is a full service cleaning company. They attract clients and subcontractors who walk in daily with rugs or furniture to be cleaned. The guys of Sequoia clean with some of the smallest portables you can purchase and they are very skilled in their cleaning techniques. By using a portable for upholstery, you have more control over your heat, vacuum, flow of solution and dry times are cut in half. When cleaning upholstery with a portable you don’t need the heat of a truck mounted unit. You can use a truckmount, however a portable is more practical.
In commercial cleaning when your company is hired to clean both carpet and upholstery, your technicians can simultaneously clean using truck mounted and portable units working together in tandem, which promotes jobs that are cleaned in a timely manner.
Portables are also a great back up system for cleaners. For years, I’ve had my Ninja for back-up just in case my truck went down. Fortunately I was always able to work around my repair and limp through the job. Now I use my portable for just cleaning upholstery and is a much appreciated piece of equipment that I keep on my truck. Portable extractors can be the best and the only backup option for a broken-down truckmount. When the truckmount unit goes down, jobs can still be cleaned by simply loading the portable into another truck.
Now, do portable units clean just as well as a truck mounted unit? That’s the BIG question. Carpet cleaners who swear by portables use them daily because of their reliability and low maintenance. Cleaners feel portables do just as good a job as a truck mounted unit, with proper techniques and good chemistry. Hose runs are less than twenty feet and you get great extraction. Let’s face it. Truckmounts are more efficient and faster than portables. Portable units will take a longer time with more dry passes, less power and heat than their truckmount counterparts. Although truck mounted units are more powerful and do have their advantages over portables. Cleaners are discovering ways to capitalize on the dependability of a portable extractor.
When buying a new portable….Let’s keep a few things in mind.
Heaters. In-line heaters are a must. Portable units producing heat up 200 F to 212 F is great heat and needed in cleaning situations. Although cold water units work well, It’s a proven fact that heated water cleans better and faster.
Vacuum water lift. You should find the unit with at least 150 inches of water lift.
High psi output. 100 psi pressure is sufficient however, 250 to 300 psi will do a good job for carpet and upholstery. If you clean tile and grout or hard surfaces a 500 psi unit would be your best bet.
Large capacity. Some units offer up to 20 gallon recovery, cleaning solution tanks, automatic pump out, auto fill and freshwater feeds.
Durability construction and weight. The unit has to be able to withstand the everyday uses that are put upon it. Also the size and weight of the unit can determine technician fatigue. Therefore, make sure you can move and maneuver the unit up stair wells without killing yourselves.
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter and the information that you have read so you can make an informed decision on your next portable unit. Everyone mentioned in this newsletter are long term members of the CFI. I want to thank
Matt Cole, Mark Goodman, Charlene Locke and the guys at Sequoia, for all the encouragement and Support through the years. The Carpet and FabriCare has been a big part of our business and has helped me in my cleaning and professionalism. I hope you take advantage of what the CFI offers. In conclusion, I hope you see that portables are a big part of our industry and a useful tool to consider.

I have an open-door policy. My email is and my Cell number is 530-941-7390. If you have a question or if you just want to talk please feel free to email or call.

Your President Roby Harris,
Roby Harris III
President, CFI
IICRC Senior Carpet Inspector
IICRC Master Textile Cleaner
Certified Master Rug Cleaner

The Carpet and FabriCare Institute